Which email protocol is better to choose: POP3 or IMAP

E-mail today is almost every user, often not even one. The use of such a messaging system has been practiced since the widespread distribution of the Internet, and is relevant to this day, in particular, because many services use email addresses to register accounts and send news. But some users use mail for its intended purpose to send and receive correspondence. Together with mail services, mail clients, programs installed on devices for the convenience of working with email, have also gained wide popularity throughout the world. They allow you to view emails without a browser, for which two standard protocols are currently used - POP3 and IMAP. Both serve the same purpose, but each has its own approach to the task. When setting up an email program, you have the option of choosing POP3 or IMAP, they are supported by most clients, and to decide which one is better to use, consider each one individually and compare them.

Selecting a mail protocol.

What is POP3

The abbreviation stands for “Post Office Protocol”, which in Russian means a post office protocol. POP3 is the third version (the previous variations of the technology are outdated and are no longer supported), it is a standard application layer protocol for retrieving email from a server using a TCP connection. This protocol uses port 110, but for SSL / TLS connections, 995 is used. The algorithm of its operation is quite simple. The protocol downloads letters from a remote server to a computer and immediately or after some time on the server, messages will be deleted, remaining only on the user's device. This means that in the case of POP3, viewing the same messages from another device will not work, unlike IMAP, a more modern standard.

Thus, the location of correspondence when applying POP3 cannot be in two places at the same time, the letters will be either on the server or on the device (by analogy with ordinary mail, which the recipient takes from the post office). So, if you looked through the letters, it means that you took them from the server to yourself. With an abundance of portable devices, this option is not very convenient, but when only a computer is used to view mail, POP3 is enough. But failures of the device are not excluded, therefore there is always the risk of information loss. Almost all modern clients (Hotmail, Yahoo !, Gmail, Mail, etc.) include support for both POP3 and IMAP protocols, and allow you to select an account type when setting up mail.

What is IMAP?

Internet Massage Access Protocol (IMAP) is an application layer protocol used to access email. It opens up great opportunities for users when working with mail and is more relevant today. The standard also uses a TCP connection, port 143 or 993 (for SSL / TLS connections). If when choosing between POP3 and IMAP as the account type, the second option is set, then the client has full access to the message lists and when opening the required letter, the information contained is downloaded completely. The user is free to perform various actions with the mail without regular transfers from the server to the device and in the opposite direction. In IMAP accounts, letters will not be deleted from the server and, thanks to the synchronization of mail with a PC, smartphone, tablet, etc., are accessible from these devices, provided that an account is configured on each of them. In addition, access to the box is possible when using a browser.

The IMAP protocol also makes it easy to get organized in the mail by creating directories, which is not available under POP3 usage conditions. You can work with correspondence both from different devices at the same time, and in turn, and all the changes made from one device will be tracked on the rest. Messages are copied from the server and not distributed to devices, so they are always available until you delete them from there. The advantages of a protocol adapted to the requirements of a modern user are obvious, and if you want to change your account type to IMAP, many well-known services allow you to do this in the settings. Some mail services do not support the protocol change option, therefore, to apply the technology, you need to create a new account.

Difference between POP3 and IMAP

Mail protocols work in pairs, and one of them is intended to receive correspondence, the other - to send. The SMTP protocol in mail programs used by users is responsible for sending outgoing letters on networks such as TCP / IP (SMTP servers can be used both for transmitting and receiving information). POP3 and IMAP are responsible for retrieving mail. When setting up a client, you just need to choose the one that suits you best. Although both protocols perform the same mission and even technically have a lot in common, the difference in the methods of transporting information is still significant. The main thing that distinguishes IMAP from POP3 is the ability to manage letters and store data on the server. Features of more modern technology suggest a high level of comfort in working with mail due to synchronization. Now there is also no need to download all letters in a row, as POP3 does, you can organize data at your own discretion, move, download, select certain messages or leave them on the server, etc.

So, the technologies work according to different principles and additional functions available when connecting to the network are introduced into the IMAP protocol, which makes it significantly different from POP3, which allows the client to download files online, then perform further actions with them locally. Programs where IMAP is used as a mail protocol can work without the Internet, but when connected, the list of their capabilities will be wider. At the same time, customers using POP3 work faster, which is due to the fact that they download information and work with it offline, while IMAP customers who perform most of the online functions consume more resources.

Highlight the main differences IMAP from POP3:

  • IMAP offers access to the mail server from different devices at the same time or alternately, POP3 can work with only one, where it pumps all incoming mail;
  • Further work with downloaded emails with a POP3 account type is offline (downloading to a computer is a prerequisite), IMAP allows you to work both online and offline (download is possible at will, but not necessary). Sorting correspondence hierarchically, adding directories and other management options are also available with IMAP;
  • Data is deleted from the server when it is downloaded to the device (POP3), data is always available on the server from any device (IMAP);
  • POP3 is less demanding of resources, which is directly related to the principle of its functioning;
  • In a client using IMAP, multi-user mode is available and setting up the separation of access rights, POP3 does not have such options.

POP3 protocol is more common, but IMAP is rapidly gaining popularity, because the problem of lack of space has long ceased to exist, and its capabilities are precisely adapted to the requirements of modern users.

What is guided when choosing

Most services offer client customization options. So, if, when setting up a program for email, you are faced with a dilemma, what type of account to choose - POP3 or IMAP, first you should decide for yourself which way you prefer to receive email. We determine what is better to use, taking into account the peculiarities of the work of protocols:

  • If a little space is allocated on the mail server, then it is more convenient to use POP3, because messages are deleted from there when they are downloaded by the client to a computer;
  • POP3 can be selected when there is no need to use a variety of functions and use other devices for the purpose of working with mail;
  • If synchronization between mail and several devices is required, as well as access to all information, the choice is obvious - this is IMAP;
  • It is better to choose POP3 when working on weak devices, due to the increased load on resources during the synchronization process provided by IMAP.

Technologies are developing so fast that the POP3 protocol, which does not support multi-tasking, is already becoming obsolete, giving way to IMAP, and soon it will completely lose its relevance. So the day is not far when the question of which of the two options to use when setting up a client will no longer torment users, and the services by default will use a more advanced protocol.